DEVON, Pa.--McLain Ward of Brewster, N. Y., won the $250,000 Sapphire Grand Prix of Devon CSI4* for a record10th time in his career, and this time with a super new mare, Clinta..
Ward has had a number of very good mares and two fabulous mares, Sapphire and HH Azur, but Clinta may turn out to be the best of them all..
The 11-year-old Oldenburg mare, Clinta, is owned by Sagamore Farm.
“Clinta has been incredible," said Ward. "It took me a long time to get her purchased, and I’m very grateful to the Sweeneys for purchasing her for me to ride and compete. I think with HH Azur, and some of our supporting cast, it really is as strong of a one-two punch as you can have in this sport. The way the sport is now with so many major events and big championships, I’m really trying to manage each horse’s career for the best long-term health of the athlete. I’m very excited about Clinta, and of course I feel so lucky to have Azur for the championships coming this season. I’m very blessed to have the support of the Harrisons and the Sweeneys. This horse is also part owned by my god mother, Susan Heller.”
FROM THE starting field of 31, five went clean over Brazil’s Guilherme Jorge's technical first round course consisting of 13 obstacles, in front of, as usual, a packed crowd.
For a number of riders, Jorge's course was the winner, beating them into submission, with five of the first 10 riders retiring after a number of faults, and two or three more retiring before the end of the class.
First in the jump-off was 25-year-old Adrienne Sternlicht, who is also trained by Ward, on Cristalline and they went clean and set a fairly quick time of 40.20 seconds, which turned out to be good enough or second.
Brianne Goutal-Marteau on Viv Columbia, next in the ring, retired to end up fifth.
Ward and Clinta, third in the order, went all out and and cleared the final oxer in a blazing 36.91 seconds for the lead as the crowd erupted with applause and cheers.
The next two in the ring, trying to match Ward's speed, each had 8 faults.
Competing for the first time at Devon since their second place finish in Paris at the World Cup Jumping Final in April, Devin Ryan on Eddie Blue finished with 8 in 39.07 seconds to place third, and Todd Minikus on Chaventyno had 8 in 40.02 for fourth.
To top off an incredible evening, Ward won the McDevitt Style Award and the Richard E. McDevitt Style Perpetual Trophy.
“I thought the course was excellent," said Ward. "This show, this event, has really taken itself to a new level. The hard work of the organizers, the committees, the sponsors and, of course, the community has reinvented Devon to be a world-class show jumping event. The caliber of riders here reflects that. Every class is full of top riders and horses. People are bringing their best horses here and trying to win. It was a challenging course and I think that four to six clear in a major grand prix is how it should be.
“The whole beginning of the jump-off worked really well for us. The turn to the double came up very nicely, which I was a little bit concerned about. The horse is so careful that I was worried she would go too high. I tried to make up a little bit of time on the way to the last fence and, to be honest, she could have chipped or stopped at it. It showed me where she is mentally and that she believes in what I am asking of her because it was a little bit of a dicey distance. The horse saved me there, she was incredible.
“Clinta is very sensitive. I have to make sure that I’m there for her. Her rideability has really improved in the last six weeks. I have to give a lot of credit to her previous rider, Philip Rüping, who developed her over the past year and a half to have the confidence to do what she’s doing now with me. I decided to bring her here because this show warrants bringing your best horses. HH Azur is in Europe. For Clinta, we’ve set benchmarks along the way to keep stepping her up. Her next benchmark is going to be the Nations Cup in Rotterdam. The focus is on Azur for the World Equestrian Games, and that hasn’t changed.”
“FOR ME, it’s very exciting to see what Adrienne is doing," said Ward of his student. "I don’t help a lot of people, but the ones that I do I am very passionate about. To see how Adrienne has stepped up in a different capacity makes me very proud. When I’m warming up for the jump-off and you see people you have supported or directly helped, like Devin [Ryan] or Adrienne, it’s a great feeling.
“Even on a rainy night, how can you beat the atmosphere here? I’ve always said this is a special place, it’s an iconic location. The crowd is second to none. I don’t think there’s an atmosphere in the world that is better. It’s always been a special place for me, and it was a special place for my father. Things just seem to go really well for me here. I am honored to ride in front of this crowd. I always seem to have them in my back pocket.”
“I had many more experienced and incredible riders behind me tonight, and I have the gift of riding an incredible horse," said Sternlicht. "I tried to trust myself and stick to my plan. I’ve become more and more confident in the jump-off. Tonight I just tried to execute according to McLain’s plan for me.”
“I thought the course was quite technical with a lot of careful verticals, and that definitely played a factor for some of the riders that came before me" she said. "McLain said to me after watching the first two go that it was a similar track to the grand prix at the Masters of New York, which was quite careful, and that was the last grand prix that Cristalline. With Cristalline, I feel that anything is possible.”
“I took a little bit of time at the end of 2017 when I was having a tough time with the sport to recenter myself," said Sternlicht. "So far, I have been blessed to have an amazing 2018. McLain has been very patient with me. I know that if I put my head down, stick to my riding and focus on what’s in front of me, that anything is possible with my horse. It’s been an amazing feeling. I know that I have to prove myself and I feel fortunate to have the partner that I do. I have more confidence in her everyday.”
“It seems like the past two or three years I’ve been riding on McLain’s coat tails, so going in to this class I knew I really wanted to take a shot at it," said Ryan. "I wanted to be double-clean tonight because that’s always the goal, but I think I took too much of a shot in the jump-off. My horse has such a big stride that sometimes it gets away from me a little bit. I tried to win it too much.
“I thought it was a great course tonight. This is a 4* level show jumping event with great footing and a great ring. I think the course designer had a great number in the jump-off with five of us.”
“This is Eddie Blue’s first show back after World Cup Finals," said Ryan. "I’m just taking it one day at a time. Hopefully it will be our year. It’s always been my dream to represent the United States at some level. I have some really good owners and a good crew behind me. It’s so important to have such a good team behind you during a year like this. I’m excited for it and I’m going to give it a shot.”
Winning at Devon has always been very special for Ward, especially since the grand prix is named after his legendary Olympic mount Sapphire, who died in 2014 due to complications from colic and who he also won the prestigious class with two times in 2007 and 2009.
Even after claiming the title time and time again, Thursday’s 10th grand prix victory marked an incredible milestone in Devon Horse Show history.